I want to preface this post by saying that I love that we’ve been able to breastfeed for so long (17 months tomorrow). I am proud to have been able to provide nourishment and comfort for my daughter with my own body. I am lucky to have had the support necessary to make it through the rough patches. I adore the bonding time we’ve spent together when she was just a wee little baby, and the cuddles that we share now that she’s a toddler.
For all the joy breastfeeding as brought me, it certainly wasn’t:
Natural - For the first 5 weeks of Alexa’s life I was hooked to a hospital grade pump. As most of you know, she was born way early, so we spent a good long time in the NICU. She wasn’t able to nurse until the week she was released, and even then she was no good at it. I pumped for hours and hours on end, took all kinds of herbs and meds to get my low supply up. Brought home blankets she had slept with to “sniff” for the pheromones, and had to watch slides shows of her photos to evoke my own hormones. Had blood tests ran, saw the lactation consultants at 2 different hospitals and the one renting me the pump. They were all ready to give up on me. I was left pretty much on my own and with the help of my friends online I learned how to suffer through it till she got home.
Free - Like I mentioned above, we had to rent a $75 a month machine to milk me. We also purchased the Pump In Style to use once the NICU stay was over. Neither worked, both were wastes of money. At least insurance ended up reimbursing us for the hospital version and I sold my PIS to an LJ friend who’s broke. Add to that the cost of all the herbs and internatinally shipped medications. Then the bottles and formula we had to buy because Alexa needed a higher calorie version due to low weight, and the regular formula after she gained enough because we were still supplementing. Oh, there were many other nursing supplies that were purchased. SOOOO not free.
Easy - Even after all the above mentioned issues were worked out we had some pretty horrid nipple confusion. That meant I lived and died by my nipple shields. See, they basically make your boobs shape like a bottle. I had many many many pairs because I couldn’t be bothered washing them over and over throughout the day. I was thrilled when we were done with them after about 4 months, but couldn’t toss them. Hell, the fuckers cost like $6 a pair. Luckily I had a friend that wanted to have some on hand, so I gladly packed them up and sent them to her! Funny though, now it hurts so bad because she’s lazy and basically comfort nursing. I could probably use a pair or 2 again
Comfortable - While I was fairly protected from her bad latch with the shields, it was still pretty painful. First off the pump killed. I turned it up far too high because I wasn’t getting anything and was distraught. So I cranked it up all the way to try to force it. To no avail. I had to wear hard plastic nipple protectors because it hurt if they touched anything. There was also a pretty nasty case of thrush that lasted for weeks. Luckily that happened somewhat recently, because I totally would have given up had it occurred in the first few weeks. I don’t know how you mamas do it when your nipples end up looking like hamburger meat. My hats off to you for sure! Now, like I mentioned before, Alexa’s latch is terrible. She’s not getting much out of me, so she lets her teeth rest on my nip. OUCH! Beyond the boob pain, my back is wrecked. She never really let me get comfortable while nursing. I’ve sat for a year+, hunched over my child, while she lays flat on the Boppy. Dammit to hell if I can ever recline! Then there’s the night nursing (which is almost done I hope) but sleeping propped up on my side for so long has left me pretty banged up feeling.
A fat melter – Nope nope nope still fat! Yeah…maybe it has something to do with my love of snack cakes, HAHA, but still? In the beginning, when most people melt away, specially ones with babes that nurse day and night. Nope, I was left basically the same weight as when I was preggo. WTF? I’m truly hoping that I’m one of those freaks that just cannot lose weight till after we wean completely.
Less work than formula – I can honestly say, we would have had an easier time if she was exclusively bottle fed. Since we had to do both, we had to deal with the hardships from each side. Bottles to clean, nipple sheilds to scrub. Powder to measure, boobs to pump. We had to supplement for months because she just wasn’t getting it…then once she did “get it” we still gave her a bottle here and there. Now, she gets “milk” in a bottle because she’s not a huge fan of anything other than water in her cups. The bottles just will not go away, and I still have to whip my boob out, only now she screams and drags the Boppy over to tell me what she wants, ha!
A cure-all – I know people swear that breast-milk wards off just about everything nasty for new babies. Well Alexa really doesn’t get sick, but she has had 2 ear infections and has some pretty ugly allergies. I’m not saying she would have been better had she been BF exclusively…or would be worse off had she only gotten formula. But it didn’t work it’s magic over here.
I do realize that my situation was different than most. We didn’t have the normal experience of learning together right after birth. I’m guessing that had things went smoothly things would have been far different. But I will never know how it feels to just do what comes naturally.
Would I go back and change anything if I could? Maybe? Sometimes I wonder if Alexa had been bottle fed, would she have been a better sleeper? If we had weaned sooner would she be better able to spend time away from me? Do I think I could ever do this again? I really don’t, and that’s one of the reasons I honestly don’t think there will be a sibling for Alexa.
**That said, I’m still a strong supporter of breastfeeding. I know it’s the best, most perfect food for babies. But it’s hard, and a lot of times people don’t tell you that it doesn’t always come naturally. Far too many mothers out there are left feeling like failures when they can’t breastfeed because they weren’t warned that it is work. I know my own mother was no help because it all “came so easily” for her so she had no idea how to help. I hope that by being honest about my experience, and that by also showing that even though some of it sucked we still made it…that maybe someone out there will be inspired to stick with it if they’re so inclined to soldier through